Even as the prolonged U.S. Senate battle drags the 2008 election into 2009, guess what: the next election season is already upon us. In North and Northeast Minneapolis, candidates are announcing their intentions to run in the November election.
Following is a 2009 overview, including a preliminary list of which offices are open and who is and who isn’t running for what, in Northeast, North Minneapolis, and St. Anthony.
Who’s not running again?
Walter Dziedzic and Paul Ostrow.
Dziedzic, a former Minneapolis police officer, city council member and current 1st District Park and Recreation Board member, said, “I’m not running. The 47 years that I’ve served is enough. I talked with my wife and family and they’ve had enough of campaigning, I think I’m all done: I’ve walked my last beat, served my last city council term, and completed my commission on the park board, I don’t want to overstay my time.”
Ostrow, 1st Ward City Council member, announced early on that he won’t be running again. Ostrow said, “I’ve long felt that it’s important for an elected official to make their mark. I like to think I’ve done that in a number of different ways. It is important to give new leadership an opportunity.
“For me, personally, it seems like the right time to leave. If you stay in elected office because of how hard it is to leave it, you would probably never leave.”
Ostrow said he plans to be a “budget hawk” this year on the council, especially in the next month or two. “We have to take a really hard look at everything we do. We have to see if we are duplicating the services we provide with other entities. The way we handle the upcoming budget crisis is crucial to the future of the city.”
Ostrow said he is not planning on running for any other offices in the near future. “I would love to find work where I can still be involved in good public policy.”
What seats are up?
The Mayor’s seat and all of Minneapolis’ City Council seats will be on this November’s ballot, as well as Board of Estimate and Taxation seats.
Northside City Council Members Barbara Johnson (Ward 4) and Don Samuels (Ward 5) have said they will run again. Diane Hofstede (Ward 3), whose ward includes some Northeast and some Northside neighborhoods, will also seek re-election.
Minneapolis 4th Ward
Johnson, who is starting her 12th year on the council, said she intends to seek re-election. “I’m doing a good job and I’m a hard worker. Right now we have some serious challenges. We are working on foreclosure prevention. We are trying to get housing back in service, by evaluating it and making sure that any repairs that are done conform to city codes.” If she wins the race in November, it will be her fourth term on the council.
Minneapolis 5th Ward
Fifth Ward City Council Member Don Samuels is running for his third term on the council. Ironically, he said, it is the first time he will be the incumbent. In 2003, he emerged from a field of 23 prospects to win a special election to the Third Ward seat after Joe Biernat resigned. In 2005, after redistricting changed ward boundaries—putting Samuels’ Third Ward home into the Fifth Ward—he ran successfully for the Fifth Ward seat. “This will be the first time I have a record in my ward to run on,” Samuels said.
Minneapolis 3rd Ward
Hofstede said, “I am definitely running again. I think we have had increasing momentum and I am extremely enthusiastic about the next four years. We have potential and good leadership, and I am confident in our ability to move forward.”
Minneapolis City Council
Doron Clark, chair of the Windom Park Citizens in Action neighborhood group, said he has already raised money and set up a web site in his bid for the First Ward City Council seat. “I’m in,” he said. He announced his candidacy last October; according to his press release, he “promises to make strong neighborhoods and quality jobs for the city of Minneapolis top priorities. This race is about responsive government and bringing voices of the people who live and work in Minneapolis back to City Hall.”
Tom Deegan, manager of Minneapolis’ problem property unit, said he intends to run for the 1st Ward seat. “The city is facing budget challenges. When you look at the work I’ve done over the last 34 years [with the City of Minneapolis] and what has happened with housing—including crime and the foreclosure crisis—I believe that my knowledge of the inner workings will be a real asset to the community. Historically, we have an opportunity for change.”
Kevin Reich, Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association executive director and former co-chair of Windom Park Citizens in Action, said he plans to run. “The main reason I’m running is because of my past, very gratifying experiences of working with the improvement association and volunteering for my neighborhood association in Windom Park. I have experience working with different jurisdictions of government, and I would like the chance to help fix up the area where I grew up.”
Windom Park resident Jose Velez, a former Hawthorne Area Community Council staff member and current policy aide to Fifth Ward City Council Member Don Samuels, said he plans to run for the 1st Ward seat.
Minneapolis Park Board
Incumbents Jon Olson, Park Commissioner for District 2, which covers North Minneapolis, and At-Large park commissioner Annie Young both said they will seek re-election. Young, a Harrison Neighborhood Association staff person, said, “Yes, I’m going to run again. I love my job and I love taking care of the parks. I’m running because there is still a lot of work to do. With the tough budget cuts and the things we’ll have to deal with, we need somebody who has longevity and history on the board. I do think I bring diversity to the board; not everybody is a Democrat.” (Young is a Green party member.)
Columbia Park neighborhood resident Liz Wielinski said she will run for the District 1 seat. “I’ve been watching the Minneapolis Park Board now for almost seven years, since they almost closed down the city’s wading pools when I had a three year old. I want to make sure the city keeps up its parks so that future generations can enjoy them. The parks in Minneapolis are our collective back yard.”
Minneapolis City Council
Craig Pederson, pastor of Northeast Community Lutheran Church, said he hasn’t made a decision yet about running for the 1st Ward council seat. “I have been encouraged by several folks to consider it and I’m thinking about it. I’ve not officially said ‘Yes, I’m in.’ We have some challenges and opportunities at my church, and I feel strongly about working on those.”
The Northeaster did not find any public announcements of challengers in wards 3, 4 or 5.
Minneapolis Park Board
St. Anthony West Neighborhood Organization (STAWNO) chair Michael Rainville said he is thinking about running for the District 1 park board seat. “I’ve come to realize how important the parks are; they are the city’s jewels. They need to be managed well. It seems like some of the recreation programs have been forgotten for awhile; they need to go on the front burner.” Rainville said he needs to have “a couple conversations” with people, including his boss, before he makes a final decision to run. However, he said it is likely. “We need to have good representation from the East Side.”
St. Anthony elections
Two council seats will be on the 2009 ballot: those now held by Brian Thuesen and Randy Stille.
Thuesen said he hasn’t made any formal announcements about whether or not he will run again. He has, however, been fighting a rare and incurable brain tumor since last summer. “I started having coordination and vision problems; my peri- pheral vision was disappearing. I also had some memory problems, and I knew something wasn’t right.” Surgeons removed nearly all of the tumor, he added, but he still suffers from double vision and is unable to work or drive.
“The lifespan for someone with this kind of tumor is severely shortened,” Thuesen added. “I’ll be 50 next year; that is on the young side to get this. I’ve still been able to serve on the city council. I’m trying to live life as normally as possible. My family and friends, our church family and the people in the community have been very supportive.”
Randy Stille, the other city council member whose seat is up for election, said he intends to run again. “I enjoy public service. I’ve been doing this for five years, and I think that my banking experience adds to a well-rounded council. What I do on my job helps me look out for the best interests of the community and its citizens. We have a council that has some continuity, and I’d like to continue that.”
Council members and the mayor have four-year terms. The mayor’s seat, currently held by Jerry Faust, will be on the ballot in 2011.
Three St. Anthony-New Brighton school board seats (out of six) will be available this year: those held by David Evans, Barry Kinsey and Leah Slye.
Evans said it is too early for him to decide if he’s running. “I will wait to see how much damage the legislature needs to inflict on education,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Northeaster. “Tough times are ahead because of the economy for all school districts. Experience is helpful in these times, and I have a background of 32 years as a teacher in this district and 13 years as a school board member. I feel I relate well to the 80 percent of homeowners who don’t have children in District 282 schools. They trust me and come to me with their concerns. I am, however, in my 70s, and everything has its season.”
Kinsey and Slye did not respond to Northeaster e-mails sent last week.
Who won’t be running?
Columbia Heights and Hilltop politicians, Hennepin County commissioners, state representatives, state senators, the Governor.
There are no elections in Columbia Heights this year. School board elections are held in even years, and in November, 2008, voters elected Joseph Sturdevant, Jr., Keith Roberts, and Ted Landwehr to the board. At the city level, they voted to re-elect city council members Bobby Williams and Bruce Nawrocki, and Mayor Gary Peterson. The council seats now held by Tami Diehm and Bruce Kelzenberg will be up for election in 2010; the mayor’s job, which has a two-year term, will also be on the 2010 ballot. City council members serve four-year terms; elections are held in even-numbered years.
Hennepin County Commissioners serve four-year terms; every two years, a third of the seats expire. The seats held by Mark Stenglein and Michael Opat, whose areas include Northeast and North Minneapolis, are up for election in 2010.
Anoka County Commissioner Jim Kordiak’s seat is up for election in 2010.
Last year’s election returned Minnesota House of Representatives members Diane Loeffler (Northeast area), Carolyn Laine (Columbia Heights), Mindy Greiling (St. Anthony) and Joe Mullery (North Minneapolis) to office. North Side voters elected Bobby Joe Champion to the Minnesota House.
State senator, representative and governor candidates will run in 2010.
The ABC amendment
Last November, Minneapolis voters approved the so-called ABC amendment, a legislative action that will give all neighborhoods school board representation.
(Prior to this, all members served at large, but in recent years, most have lived in South or Southwest Minneapolis. Many Northeast and North residents complained that because of this, the northern part of the city went unrepresented, and their schools did not have as many program and class offerings.)
State Representative Jim Davnie, the bill’s author, said voters won’t see the effects of the change until the next school board election, in 2010. (There is no school board election this year.) Voters from the three eastern districts—including Northeast—will elect a school board member. Two board members will be elected at large. That will bring the number of school board members to eight; it will take two election cycles to reach the nine members called for in the amendment.
The good news for Northeast, Davnie said, is that Northeast will end up with two residents on the board: at-large member Jill Davis, who won the seat in 2008, and the new district representative who will be elected in 2010.
The legislation encourages the use of roughly the same boundaries as the park districts, Davnie added. “That still has to be set up, and the school board is looking at it.” The year 2012 will bring another change, he said: mandatory state redistricting, when the cities redraw their representation boundaries according to population.
“School board representation is not based on the number of kids in an area,” Davnie said. “It’s based on the population in an area. You’re still paying for it whether you have children in the district or not. You’re either a constituent or a recipient of the product. Hopefully, by building tighter relations between the school board and the community, people will have more confidence in the system, and more kids will start attending Minneapolis public schools.”
IRV: the wild card
Minneapolis voters chose, in 2006, to have Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), which was to start in 2009. It’s a voting system in which a) there is no primary, and b) voters rank their choices: first, second, third and so on. A candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the first choice votes wins. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of first-choice votes, candidates with the fewest votes are eliminated and their votes are reallocated to the voters’ second choices. The reallocation process continues until one candidate receives a majority of the votes.
As of last week, however, IRV’s fate was tied up in litigation. The Minnesota Voters’ Alliance filed a lawsuit last year against the City of Minneapolis, in an effort to stop it from using IRV. Cindy Reichert, Minneapolis elections director, said the city expects a lower court decision on the matter fairly quickly. More information about IRV can be found on the city’s web site, www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us, left side click “Government,” then “Elections,” and “IRV news.”